A Year of the Monkeys

During 2017, I took a hiatus from my devotion to getting around to working on the novel, and took up short storyism.

The writing group I belong to, the Infinite Monkeys chapter of The League of Utah Writers, had a brilliant idea to write short stories for a year focusing on a different zodiac sign themes and by the end of a year maybe, just maybe, there would be enough stories to toss into an anthology. And if all went well with submissions, edits, and rewrites, we’d have book shaped stocking suffers with our name in it to give out to our family by next winter.

I wrote a lot of short stories that year. I also received a lot of feedback in the critique groups I attended. Kind, helpful feedback, like:

“You’re main character’s an asshole. If he was a real person I’d throat punch that bitch. Serious, give up on this story and try something else.”

“How come your characters swear so much. Profanity is for lazy writers. With all the words that a writer has at their disposal, why would you ever need to include swear words in your story?”

“Well, if you take into account that the goal of writing is to evoke a reaction from the reader, it definitely got a reaction out of me. So, there you go.”

There was more plenty more, and all in all, most of it was helpful. Apart from the anti-profanity chap . . . fuck that guy.

What the year of short stories gave me a year of starting and finishing stories. The on going exercise of edits and critiques and the realization that as much of a pain is the ass short stories were to write (I get long winded and trying to keep my stories to under 5000 words became the bane of every story I wrote that year), I became a better writer.

I did the work and it paid off. I ended up submitting the strongest of my stories, Tilting Scales, which was accepted with a couple of “Hell yeahs,” and one “That’s a solid story.” I also ended up with a few more stories that I love and am going to be submitting to other places to see what happens.

I’ve also taken up the novel again, which is good, but after a year of practicing and improving my writing chops, fuck me that thing needs a lot of work. Good thing I’m a better writer now and up to the task.

As for the anthology, it’s under the Books link at the top of the page, but you can also click here to go to a groovy little page that will let you select where you’d like to order it from . . . you know, if you’re of the disposition.

Will Facebook Ruin My 20 Year Reunion?

Will Facebook Ruin My 20 Year Reunion?

I’m curious how my twenty year high school reunion is going to pan out this Saturday, you know, mainly thanks to Facebook. I know I have personally checked up on more than a handful of my old classmates thanks to the easy-to-stalk options Facebook has sent up for all its users. I guess it might be fun to find out which of your old class mates have been stalking you.

Still I worry that the catching up is going to be a bit different than the last reunion, ten years ago. Think about it, you are there talking with your old friend Josh and you ask, “Hey Josh, so what have you been up to?”

Josh: “Well I just got back from Hawaii.”

You: “I know! I saw the pictures. Looked like an amazing trip. I can’t believe you got to swim with dolphins. Your kids looked so happy.”

Josh: “Um, yeah . . . so what have you been up to?

You: “Oh just living vicariously through people I use to know thanks to Facebook.”

Then there are those things that you might not want to talk about, but thanks posting angry, posting drunk, or both, you might have to deal with questions like, “Hey Natalie, did you really get herpes because your husband didn’t use protection when he cheated on you? Or was that just a herpes scare? Or . . . oh god, you didn’t get anything worse did you?”

I also worry that with the overabundance of smartphones, a lot of communication will happen through posts. Things like:
Post from Sara: “I’m at my 20 year high school reunion and just saw my old high school fling walk in, awkward.”

Comment from Jane: LOL, I’m telling Travis.

Comment from Sara: Jane don’t you dare!

Travis “Likes” this.

Comment from Jane twenty minutes later: Sara, are you still hear? I’ve been looking for you for the past 15 minutes? Where did you go?

I guess there is a chance that arguments could start as well thanks to social networking, although it will probably all happen on Facebook while two people are sitting across from each other not saying anything. Something like:
Post: I can’t believe Kelly is flirting with Bruce. What are you both 16 again?

Comments: We are both married with families, we are just catching up. Guess you still haven’t gotten over him asking me to the prom instead of you.

To assist with more human based interaction I hope they treat the dinner like movie theaters and ask everyone to turn off their cell phones for the duration of the reunion. I’m even tempted to get a cell phone blocker so no one will get a signal the entire night we are hanging out. Although, knowing how people tend to respond to that type of thing it would probably result in me sitting indoors all by myself while everyone else is outside where they can get a signal.

When I told a co-worker that I was going to my 20th he asked if I was going to rent a Porsche and a tux to show everyone I made it. I think that is the difference between a 10 year and 20 year reunion. When you are still in your 20s showing off, even if it’s a lie, seems like it would be a lot of fun. In my 30s though, it just seems exhausting, disingenuous, uncomfortable, and a complete waste of money. I wonder if that means I’m finally growing up, or just becoming boring.

I’m just looking forward to saying hello to a people and if things go well having some real conversations that might result in reconnecting with some old friend that doesn’t just end with me “Liking” a picture they recently posted of their family. It might be cool to actually get to know the names of their family as well. I’m also excited to find out who followed my yearbook advice and stayed cool, because twenty years ago that really was the best advice I had to offer. Sadly, I think it might be some of the best advice I have to off these days as well.

Stay cool everyone, and thanks for reading.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: class of 1992, fake conversation, texting while angry, and stay cool.

Copyright © 2012 Richard Timothy

July . . . All This and Days Too

July . . . All This and Days Too

With the start of the new month it is once again time to look closer and learn a few things you may not know about our seventh month of the year. In the US our big holiday this month is the 4th of July, the day we commemorate when we declared our independence from Great Britain way back in 1776. As it turns out we are not alone in claiming our independence in July.

Here are some of the other countries that have obtained their independence in the month of July:

  • Abkhazia – Independence from Georgia in 1993
  • Algeria – Independence from France in 1962
  • Argentina – Independence from the Spanish Empire in 1816
  • Bahamas – Independence from the United Kingdom in 1973
  • Belarus – Independence from several years of German occupation in 1944
  • Belgium – Independence from Netherlands in 1831
  • Burundi – Independence from Belgium in 1962
  • Cape Verde – Independence from Portugal in 1975
  • Colombia – Independence from Spain in 1810
  • Djibouti – Independence from France in 1977
  • Laos – Independence from France in 1949
  • Liberia – Independence from the United States in 1847
  • Malawi – Independence from the United Kingdom in 1964
  • Maldives – Independence from the United Kingdom in 1965
  • Peru – Independence from Spain in 1821
  • Rwanda – Independence from Belgium in 1962
  • Sao Tome and Principe – Independence from Portugal in 1975
  • Slovakia – Declaration of Independence in 1992
  • Solomon Islands – Independence from the United Kingdom in 1978
  • Somalia – Independence from Italy in 1960
  • South Sudan – Independence from Sudan in 2011
  • Vanuatu – Independence from the United Kingdom and France in 1980
  • Venezuela – Declaration of Independence from Spain in 1811

Apart from the Independence Day celebrations that take place this month, July is also:

  • National Blueberry Month
  • National Anti-Boredom Month – This is not a good idea. Whoever came up with the idea of putting Anti-Boredom Month during the same month what state laws towards the purchase of and use of fireworks becomes quite lenient clearly didn’t think this one through. This might also explain why some of my neighbors have been lighting off fireworks every night this past weekend, once the sun goes down they get bored and want to blow something up.
  • National Cell Phone Courtesy Month – I appreciate this one, unless that means we need to be more courteous towards people on their cell phone, but I’m guessing that isn’t the case.
  • National Hot Dog Month – Of course since the 4th of July is the biggest barbeque day of the year it’s not surprising that the month is dedicated to the consumption of these vile icons of America’s gift to the culinary world.
  • National Ice Cream Month – This one makes sense, especially considering how warm it is lately. I’m not a big fan of ice cream, but over the past week I have consumed ice cream on three separate occasions.

I did want to add one more celebration to this month. It’s not an official or nationally observed holiday, but in my experience July is also Family Reunion Month. I’ve already attended one family reunion this month and most of my friends seem to have one scheduled sometime this month as well.

When it comes to week long celebrations apparently the second week in July (so starting today) is Nude Recreation Week. My recommendation, find yourself a hammock, preferable in someplace secluded (no point in being the reason for your neighbors start going to therapy), and spend an hour or two relaxing in the hammock while in the buff. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

As for special days in the month of July, I managed to find 50+ different day celebrations. Today happens to be National Sugar Cookie Day, which I’ll be skipping. I’m not really a fan of sugar cookies. As for the rest of the days, for the sake of avoiding a ridiculously long list, I’ll highlight just a few of my favorites:

  • July 1 – Build a Scarecrow Day (which is the first Sunday of the month) and International Joke Day. – Sadly, I’m not sure I know any international jokes . . . unless of course you want to talk about America’s foreign policies over the last decade.
  • July 2 – I Forgot Day and World UFO Day – I was a little bummed about missing World UFO Day, but when I realized it was also I Forgot Day, I didn’t feel too bad about it anymore.
  • July 8 – Video Games Day – Check (and didn’t even know I was supposed to play video games this past Sunday). Yeah, I rock.
  • July 11 – Cheer Up the Lonely Day and World Population Day – Doesn’t having those two on the same day seem to imply that the recommended way of cheering up the lonely is an activity that could result in world population. I recommend just giving them a plate of cookies and asking them how their day is.
  • July 13 – Barbershop Music Appreciation Day – In a word, YES!
  • July 20 – Moon Day – I think it’s important to mention that this is in reference to the Moon that orbits the Earth and not the youthful or more commonly drunk frat guy activity that insists that flashing people the quick view of your bare derriere is the epitome of comedic genius.
  • July 27 – Take Your Pants for a Walk Day – I’m going to borrow my sister’s stroller on this day. That way I can just put all my pants in the seat and take all of them for a walk in one go.

Well, that’s it for my highlight of a few July Holidays. I hope you found a smirk getting a little more awareness about this month, and maybe, apart from grilling hotdogs and eating ice cream, you’ll get a little more out of this month than you have in years past. Cheers, and a Happy July to you all.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: July, anti-boredom month, feet in a hammock, and barbershop music.

Copyright © 2012 Richard Timothy

March . . . All This and Days Too!

March . . . All This and Days Too!

When I took a look at month of February for one of last month’s Smirks I was so amused by what I learned that I thought it might be fun to dedicate one Smirk a month this year to learning a little more about each month. So for the first Smirk of March, why not share what I learned about this month, the only month of the year that can be a verb as well as a noun.

When it comes to March, I’ve always assumed that there is some type of Irish theme associated with it due to St. Patrick’s Day being in the middle of it. Turns out I was right because March is Irish-American Heritage Month. Of course it not just Irish-American Heritage Month, they do have to share it with others. As it turns out March is also:

  • National Kidney Month
  • National Nutrition Month
  • Women’s History Month
  • Greek-American Heritage Month
  • National Brain Injury Awareness Month
  • Endometriosis Awareness Month
  • Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
  • Self-Harm Awareness Month
  • National Essential Tremor Awareness Month
  • “Help Fight Liver Disease” Month
  • Red Cross Month
  • National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Epilepsy Month
  • Supply Management Month

A few of those make perfect sense, but only after you juxtapose them with St. Patrick’s Day and the mass consumption of alcohol as the only acceptable ways to correctly celebrate the day. Drinking can do a number to your kidneys and liver, so having the month dedicated to both kidneys and liver disease makes perfect sense.

The same can be said for brain injury and self-harm. Next to New Years, I would assume St. Patrick’s Day has the second highest cumulative loss of brain cells in the span of a twenty-four hour period than any other holiday celebrated each year. And I imagine the amount of harm people do to themselves due to the mass consumption of green beer and dressing up like leprechauns is higher this month than any other month of the year as well.

Apart from an entire month of awareness or celebration towards one specific theme, some themes feel that all they really need is just a week for make their mark spreading awareness to the world. The 4th -10th of March is National Social Work Week. In honor of this week I’ve been working on my social skills by memorizing one clean joke for every dirty one I like to share in social settings. The 12th-18th is Brain Awareness Week, and I’ve already got my zombie costume pulled out of storage and ready to go. Today starts National Sleep Awareness Week, so in honor of this week I shall be taking a nap every single day from now until the 11th. This week is going to be kick ass. The 13th starts World Rotaract Week, which has something to do with Rotary clubs, which is a club where a group of people helps others and not a club that rotates . . . and no I will not admit that I had to look that up.

There are a few days this month that I found to be points of interest as well.

  • 6 – World Glaucoma Day – You would think that this would happen during Marijuana Awareness Month (February in case you were wondering).
  • 8 – International Women’s Day
  • 14 – Pi Day – I’m going to get blueberry! (Insert smiley face here.)
  • 22 – World Water Day
  • 23 – World Meteorological Day
  • 24 – World Tuberculosis Day
  • 26 – Purple Day
  • 31 – World Backup Day

I guess the nice thing is, if I decide to actually pay attention to any of those days at least I’ll know what I’ll be wearing for two days this month. I am a little stoked about it being Greek-American Heritage Month as well; it’s a great excuse to get gyros at least once a week this month for dinner, because I do love a good gyro.

I hope you enjoyed this March Awareness Smirk, and maybe, apart from drinking something green on the same day you dress in something green, you’ll get a little more out of March this year than years past, but regardless if you do or don’t, Cheers! And a Happy March to you all.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords:March, Women’s History Month, sleep at work, and Pi Day.

Copyright © 2012 Richard Timothy

Fines for Potty Mouths and Don’t Mess with Granny

Fines for Potty Mouths and Don’t Mess with Granny

One of the things about news stations in the US is that 99% of the time (or more) news about what is going on around the world doesn’t get reported to us. This has caused me to occasionally peruse headlines from around the world to see if the reporting in other parts of the world is a pointless as it is here in the states. Over the past week I’ve found a few stories from the other side of the world from a culture of people who, according to Douglas Adams (in his Last Change to See book), are very keen in assuring you that no matter what is going on in any given situation that there is nothing to worry about. This is commonly expressed in the form of the continent’s catch phrase, “No worries.”

Yes this week’s Smirk comes to you with much gratitude from the wonderful land called Australia. As it turns out, I have a few friends in Australia, friends I have not yet met, but someday hope to. And from the little correspondence I have had with them, I must admit that my overall opinion is that Australia is filled with nothing but kind, friendly people who enjoy a drink every now and again. I am sure there are some people that do a very good job thwarting this perspective about Australians, but I have yet to meet any of them. One thing I know about the country with much tested certainty is… they make a damn tasty Shiraz.

And it is that damn that brings me to my first amusing headline about the goings on in Australia:
Damn! Aussies to be fined for swearing

In the state of Victoria, the country’s second most populated state legislation is expected to pass that will allow the police issue on-the-spot fines for obnoxious swearing, fines that can reach up to $240AUS ($257US). To me the key identifier in this law is the word obnoxious, which does bring up a number of questions for me. My first concern is that this law is open to a huge range of personal interpretation on what is considered obnoxious. If you have one officer that was raised in a very strict home where profanity was strictly prohibited their view on what is considered obnoxious swearing is going to be very different from someone who comes from a family of sailors. (Yes it is my universal belief that all sailors no matter where they come from are masters in the art of profanity.)

The law is intended to be targeted towards obnoxious, offensive behavior in public, but personally I find it much more offensive and obnoxious when I’m in a restaurant and a couple comes in with a set of ill-behaved children and are seated at the table right next to me. Then for the remainder of my meal, me and every other table around me has to deal with a baby crying or a four year whining about not wanting to eat its food. I find this a hell of a lot more obnoxious than a drunken person cursing at the “Don’t Walk” light because no light is going to tell them what the hell they can or can’t do. Honestly, which is the more obnoxious, offensive behavior in public?

Some of the most obnoxious language I’ve ever heard comes from people that don’t utter a single curse word. Seriously, all you have to do is start talking politics with someone that doesn’t share your political views and you will soon be engaged in one of the most obnoxious conversations of the year. Granted, at some point I’m sure profanity will ensue, but there are a few rare exceptions where the lack or profanity remains, which creates a more obnoxious encounter because let’s face it profanity offers certain emotional venting avoiding to swear only increases the tension.

Another question, is this only spoken profanity? If you are wearing a tee shirt that has profanity written on it… can you get a fine? What about people with Tourette’s syndrome? Are they excluded from this law? If not, why not? If so, could you get a Tourette’s card that allows you to swear obnoxiously in public without fear of breaking the law? (That’s right here at Smirk I’m willing to ask the tough questions that seem random as hell, but now that I mention it you know there are others out there who are going to be wondering the same thing… and now, thanks to me, you’re one of them.)

I can tell you this; I personally think that passing this law would automatically remove any and all chances of the state of Victoria ever hosting a World Cup. I don’t think there is a police force large enough to attempt to issue British football (soccer) fans during a World Cup a ticket for obnoxious profanity. Obnoxious profanity and sports go together like vegans and tofu, trees and forests, fish and the ocean or cat juggling and clawed arms. They belong together and I think trying to take that away would risk damning the sports world forever, at least in the state of Victoria.

My next Australian story held the following headline:
Aussie woman, 89, beats off bandit with handbag

In short, three women, ages 71, 82 and 89, were chatting away in an underground car park in Melbourne on May 26. They were approached by a man who pulled out a knife and held it to the throat of the 82 year old. What happened next? Well, the 89 year old, without even giving it a thought, swung her handbag smacking the assailant in the face. The 82 year admitted, “I tried to kick him in the groin, but I could not move my leg far enough or high enough.” The man kept yelling at the old ladies to give him their bags, but the ladies refused, continuing their defensive assault toward the man.

The mugger finally fled after a man passing by ran to the defense of ladies. However the 71 year old friend kept an eye on the fleeing man and memorized his plate number as he drove away. Unfortunately, the car turned out to be stolen so the attempted robber was not caught. The police were rather impressed by the women and deservedly so. The 82 year old did receive a small cut on her hand, but fortunately it did not require any medical treatment.

I’ll admit that the visual I get of these three ladies attacking this unsuspecting mugger with their handbags and failed groin kicks, and walking away from it not just unscathed (minus a small battle cut) is not only poetic, genius, and smile inducing, but it fills me with the satisfying reassurance that one is never too old to be a bad-ass. I tip my hats to you ladies. You are an inspiration. And thank you Australia, for creating some news that has kept me smirking all week. Cheers.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: reporter, officer writing ticket, arguing politics, old lady with handbag, and Australia.

© Richard Timothy 2011

Gators takes two shots to the head, Police say he’s doing fine.

Gators takes two shots to the head, Police say he’s doing fine.

Every now and again I’ll find a news story that puts a smile on my face, something that is clearly smirk inspiring and worth sharing. So for today’s Smirk I thought I’d share a story of an alligator, lurking in a Kansas suburb, spotted by kids, reported by parents and confronted by the police. In the end a few shots were fired, and the gator remains at large, just not as large as he was before the shots were fired.

When I think of the word gator a few things come to mind. The first is the much expressed hate for Gators fans in the film Big Trouble, based on the Dave Barry’s first novel. The second thing that comes to mind is the saying the every American learns at some point in their youth and is said every chance they get for a two week period during the period in grade school that you first learn it. The saying of course is, “See you later alligator. After a while crocodile.” Ah the joys of an easily entertained youth.

This story takes place in a Kansas City suburb, which I have seen! Ok so I probably haven’t seen this specific Kansas City suburb, but did spend a week in Kansas City once a decade or so ago, so at least I do know what a Kansas City suburb looks like. Here is what I remember most about that trip, going to a River Boat casino and spending $20 on the slots, walking out with $18 in change (every I won I put the winnings in my left pocket, when $20 in my right pocket was gone, I was done gambling). I remember watch the play Forever Plaid with a bunch of old people that knew all the songs. I remember going to the dog tracks and winning $12 on some funny named dog that my friend said would never win. And I remember staying up until 3AM every night watching MST3K. All in all, a pretty damn good trip… thanks again Ryan. I will, however, state for the record that I did not see any gators while I was visiting.

This story comes begins with an evening call to the local police department from a parent in a Kansas City suburb, on the Missouri side. The caller reported that an alligator had been spotted, by his children, in some weeds close to a nearby pond. The police were dispatched right away, but by the time the police arrived it was starting to get dark limiting their visibility. The gator was still in the area that it had been spotted and the police were advised by a conservation agent to kill the gator if the police felt it posed a threat. Now I don’t know about you, but if there was a local pond that the neighborhood kids played by and/or in, and an alligator was discovered hiding in the brush close by, I’d probably consider that a bit of a threat… turned out the police agreed.

It was after the second shot to the gators head with no reaction whatsoever from the giant lizard that the policed ventured a bit closer. It was then that they realized that the gator was a fake. The owner of the property told the police that the fake gator with installed to keep people off his property. At this point all I can do is picture some crotchety old man in overalls, sitting in a rocking chair on his front porch with a tall glass of lemonade in one hand, a shotgun with rock salt shells in the other hand and a bottle of whiskey sitting next to him to help bring out the flavor of the lemonade, all the while yelling at all those damn kids to get off his lawn.

I’m guessing the owner was a little bothered that the police had opted to take pot shots at his devious lawn ornament, to which the officers replied that a no-trespassing sign would have been a wiser way to encourage people to stay off his land. I would that if the owner is immensely fond of his fake lawn scare toy that cosmetic surgery for the chipped gator will be scheduled for later this month. And there you have it; the true story about a fake gator who took two real shots to his fake head by the real local police to stop a fake lurking menace that looked real.

Image Sources:
Google Images, keywords: reading newspaper, alligator on land, and fake alligator.

© Richard Timothy 2011